The Royal College of Nursing has expressed concern that many nursing staff are afraid to raise their concerns about staffing levels and patient safety in the workplace.

The overwhelming majority of nurses who responded to a recent RCN survey on whistleblowing said they would be concerned about victimisation, personal reprisals or a negative effect on their career if they were to report concerns to their employers.

In the survey of over 3,000 members, it was reported that in almost half of cases where nurses have raised concerns about issues such as staffing levels and patient safety, no action was taken. More than 80% of nurses have raised concerns with their employers about such issues.

Dr Peter Carter, RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary, said it was ‘extremely worrying’ that nurses are being explicitly told not to raise concerns, given the potential consequences when problems are not tackled.

Dr Carter added: “This is yet more evidence that nurses have genuine concerns that they will be victimised if they speak up. All too often, they’re right. Policies and guidance from employers and the NMC are welcome, and have done a great deal to increase awareness about the importance of whistleblowing. However it is absolutely vital that nurses are protected in practice, and that they have confidence that managers will support them. This support, which should be from the line manager on the ward to the chief executive of their trust, is crucial if we are to avoid another dreadful example of poor care which carries on unchallenged.”

The RCN is urging its members to raise any concerns they may have about the safety of their patients using a dedicated phone line which allows RCN members to talk in confidence about serious and immediate worries. The RCN will use this confidential information to support the nurse to raise concerns and, where necessary, to investigate concerns directly with employers.